The Key to Successful Collaboration

Great designers empower their teams to bring ideas to life

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” -Aristotle

Collaboration is a practice where individual contributors work as a team to achieve a certain goal. It relies on the individual qualities such as self-organization, motivation, engagement and ability to deliver the work. It is essential to be focused and open in order to collaborate successfully.

The magic of a collaborative environment creates real value and enables the team to deliver the work faster. Collaboration brings alignment between team members on product goals, removes roadblocks such as unnecessary debates, and increases productivity so that the team can get their product into the hands of users faster.

To be a collaborative team player you should understand the perspectives, goals, and objectives of your team members. Your Project Manager cares about shipping the right product in a timely manner but your engineers want to deliver quality code that is functional and reliable at scale. At the end of the day we all are working towards one goal : making a successful product. It’s often the designer who can make this process smooth and effective.

Collaborate with your teammates to reach product goals

  • Lean on your Product Manager to understand the user problem. You should work with your PM when you feel stuck and need to make sure you are going in the right direction. The best way to your PM’s heart is to be reliable and meet the deadlines you committed to. Don’t over promise, instead you should set clear and realistic expectations so that the PM can plan the project accordingly. At Shyp we are in the cadence of having weekly product reviews with PM, Engineering leads, CX leads and other stakeholders where we gather feedback, resolve conflicts and make sure we’re aligned on goals. The designer presents the project he/she is working on and the group discusses it. The earlier the stage of the project , the easier it is to cut loose ends.
  • Test your hypothesis through research. The best way to make sure you’re building the right product and solving real user problems is to know your audience and what your potential customers are facing in day-to-day life, what their struggles are. The bigger the audience (and potential impact of the project ) the more you should know about who your users are and what their current workflow is. At Shyp we do extensive user research to make sure we solve the right problems and address the pain points of our customers.
  • Partner with your Engineering team to bring ideas to life. At Shyp we value true Design + Engineer teamwork and strive to build strong collaborative environment between the teams. The Design team’s responsibility is to create a Style Guide that facilitates product development and iterations. We hold ourselves accountable for keeping the Style Guide up-to-date and add new elements and rules per the requests of our engineers. Designers are seen as true partners to the engineering team at Shyp.
  • Work with your Design peers. I intentionally saved this one for last as it should be a no-brainer. Design teams are at their strongest when there’s a strong team spirit and collaborative environment. We organize ideation sessions to generate ideas for upcoming projects, hold design roundtables where we provide feedback, and make ourselves available on an ad-hoc basis to provide feedback and solve the problem as a team.
We’ve executed many successful projects where we supported each other within the design team and learned from working closely together.

Collaboration is act of balance

Being a collaborative designer doesn’t mean you agree with everyone all of the time. Neither does it mean to ignore the ideas of others. To collaborate means to work together as a team; to ideate, learn and iterate. Have a conversation!

If you feel strongly about a certain idea/product/feature work with your team to define what it means to execute on it — how much effort is required? What value will it bring to the business? As a designer, you are responsible for communicating your ideas to your teammates and proving they are worth pursuing.

For a designer, it is tempting to get into a creative groove and re-design the product from the ground up. You might even strongly believe that this is what the product needs. But if you want to be perceived as a team player, be heard and be considered when the next big decision for the product is made — have a conversation with your teammates why you believe that it’s what the product needs.

How to create a collaborative environment?

  1. Make people feel included. Every opinion counts even if it’s not along the same lines as yours. In fact, especially then.
  2. Debate if you disagree. But please don’t bring a paintbrush to a gunfight.
  3. Seek for honest and open feedback. This is how we grow and become better inside and outside of the work environment.
  4. Show an example of how to be a good team player. Your teammates will appreciate your honesty, openness and ability to compromise when possible.
  5. Share the knowledge. If you came across a certain problem before and have experience solving it, share your wisdom! If you’ve picked up some new tools, or want to teach your engineering team some new Sketch tricks, set some time aside to teach people what you’ve learned. Your contribution to the team’s “knowledge base” won’t be unnoticed.

How do you collaborate with your team? Share your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter and follow Shyp Design for more stories from our design team.

P.S. We’re hiring a great Product Designer! Apply here: